PESHAWAR: Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir on Thursday backed the government’s decision to forcefully repatriate undocumented immigrants, terming the presence of ‘illegal foreign nationals’ in the country “a security and economic threat”.

“Illegal foreigners are seriously affecting Pakistan’s security and economy. The decision to repatriate them has been taken by the government in the interest of Pakistan,” said General Munir during his visit to the provincial capital.

The army chief said the illegal foreign nationals were being repatriated in a “humane and dignified manner as per the established norms”, read a statement issued by the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

On November 17, the Foreign Office rejected criticism from the global community on the government’s decision to expel ‘illegal immigrants’ from the country. Its spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that Pakistan did not need to provide any explanation on the issue as it was “our sovereign right to implement our immigration laws”.

With less than 411 ‘illegal immigrants’ left across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 0.25 million illegal Afghan nationals have so far voluntarily left Pakistan since September 17 via three border crossings: 525,883 used Torkham in district Khyber; 3,543 used Angoor Adda in district South Waziristan, and 698 foreign nationals crossed into Afghanistan via Kharlachi border crossing in district Kurram.

During his visit on Thursday, the COAS was briefed in detail on the overall security situation, the ongoing counter-terrorism operations, repatriation of ‘illegal immigrants’ and socioeconomic developments in the newly merged districts.

The COAS interacted with the officers and soldiers and lauded their heroic and exemplary feats during counter-terrorism operations.

“The nation takes pride and acknowledges the accomplishments of its armed forces. Pakistan is destined to succeed and the Pakistan Army will continue to undertake its selfless and sacred duty of safeguarding every inch of the motherland till the last drop of blood,” the statement quoted General Munir as saying.

He said: “Nefarious designs of the forces inimical to peace and stability of Pakistan were being foiled through a synergetic and comprehensive strategy.” He added the improvement in the security situation, besides progress on socioeconomic projects, was due to the firm support from the KP residents.

“The resolute support of people of KP to security forces has resulted in stability in the province and materialisation of progress on projects of socioeconomic development,” General Munir said. He highlighted the importance of economic growth and development in newly merged districts.

General Munir held an interactive session with the participants of the First National Work­shop Khyber Pakhtun­khwa (NWKP-1).

He was received by Commander Peshawar Corps Lieu­tenant General Sardar Hassan Azhar Hayat upon his arrival in Peshawar.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2023

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